Converting Waste Petcoke from Oilsands Production to Methanol
The bitumen upgraders in the Fort McMurray area of Alberta and the refineries in the Edmonton area are large producers of petroleum coke (petcoke), which, historically, has had essentially zero market value in Alberta.
Petcoke, however, can be converted to methanol, which can be used as a gasoline blending component or marketed as chemical-grade material. _OGJ
The potential conversion of methanol to gasoline (MTG) deserves a few words. The first commercial MTG unit was licensed by Mobil Oil in New Zealand in 1985.1
The anticipated yield from 50,000 b/d of methanol could be 20,500 b/d gasoline (rvp 9 psia, before ethanol blending; 0.73 sp gr; RON 92, benzene 0.3 vol %). And it produces about 5,500 b/d of C3-C4 LPG.
On this basis, it is difficult to see any rationale in converting methanol to gasoline if the option of methanol-gasoline blending is available. According to information from the US Environmental Protection Agency, methanol blending into gasoline is not banned in the US.
Given the investment in MTG facilities and the shrinkage in energy content (8-9%), and energy consumed by the MTG plant, the cost of the MTG gasoline would be significantly above the cost of energy in the methanol.
In this context, it is worth adding that conversion of syngas to hydrocarbon liquids by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is technically proven and produces high-quality diesel.2 At the same time the coproduced naphtha is very paraffinic, with an octane value of perhaps 35 to 40 and is essentially nonreformable for octane elevation. Further, no steam cracker for ethylene production in Alberta is adaptable for liquid naphtha feed. _OGJ
The CO2 produced may be used for many other purposes including EOR.
Here is a comparison of cost per gallon for various fuel liquids: